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The Play of Letters: Les Liaisons dangereuses on the Stage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2009

Bill Overton
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer in English, Loughborough University

Extract

Christopher Hampton's play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, based on the novel by Laclos, was first produced at The Other Place at Stratford-upon-Avon in September 1985. It was immediately acclaimed, and after its transfer early in 1986 to The Pit at the Royal Shakespeare Company's London centre, the Barbican, both play and performers won several awards, including four for Best Play. In October 1986, with only a few changes of performer, the production further transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. At the time of writing the Ambassadors production, recast, has opened to enthusiastic reviews, while the original production has achieved transfer to New York. Hampton's triumphant success in dramatizing Laclos's novel deserves the closest attention.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 1988

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References

1. London and Boston, 1985; rev. ed., 1986. All page references, which are given in parentheses, are to this edition, which presents the text the performers began with in their first rehearsals, taking no account of minor changes introduced as the production developed. References to the novel are given by letter numbers. There are two English translations in print, by Aldington, Richard, Dangerous Acquaintances, London, 1981 (1924)Google Scholar, and by Stone, P. W. K., Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Harmondsworth, 1961.Google Scholar Quotations are from Pléiade, Laurent Versini's edition, in Laclos: Œuvres complètes, Paris, 1979.Google Scholar

2. Altman, Janet Gurkin, Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form, Columbus, Ohio, 1982, pp. 47, 5054, and 84.Google Scholar

3. See, for instance, Kinkead-Weekes, Mark, Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist, London, 1973.Google Scholar

4. See Eaves, T. C. Duncan and Kimpel, Ben D., Samuel Richardson: A Biography, Oxford, 1971, pp. 126–45.Google Scholar

5. Altman, , p. 211.Google Scholar

6. Colette Verger Michael lists one film and three theatrical adaptations, all French, in Choderlos de Laclos: The Man, His Works, and His Critics: An Annotated Bibliography, New York and London, 1982, pp. 91–6.Google Scholar The East German playwright Heiner Müller's striking free adaptation, Quartett, was published in 1981 and first produced in 1982. It has been translated by Weber, Carl in Hamletmachine and Other Texts for the Stage, New York, 1984, pp. 106118.Google Scholar

7. On the Art of Poetry, in Classical Literary Criticism, trans. Dorsch, T. S., Harmondsworth, 1965, pp. 38–9.Google Scholar

8. Hampton's plays include The Philanthropist (1970)Google Scholar, Savages (1973)Google Scholar, and Tales from Hollywood (1983)Google Scholar; his translations Tales from the Vienna Woods (1977)Google Scholar, Don Juan comes back from the War (1978)Google Scholar, and Tartuffe (1983).Google Scholar

9. See his review of Fanny Burney's Cecilia in Œuvres complètes, pp. 448–9Google Scholar, and his comments on Lacretelle's narrative drama Le fils natural, p. 494.Google Scholar

10. Martin, Graham and others, Dangerous Acquaintances by Choderlos de LaclosGoogle Scholar, Open University course A204: The Enlightenment, Units 31–2, Keynes, Milton, 1980, p. 50.Google Scholar

11. Thody, P. M. W., Laclos: Les Liaisons dangereuses, London, 1979, pp. 33–4.Google Scholar

12. Œuvres complètes, pp. 387443.Google Scholar

13. Martin, , pp. 21–2 and 27–8.Google Scholar

14. Thody, , p. 19.Google Scholar

15. In the introduction to Dangerous Acquaintances, p. 50.Google Scholar

16. Malraux, André, Préface (1969), Le triangle noir, Paris, 1970, p. 9.Google Scholar

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